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At some point or another in your life, chances are there’s been an album or, if you’re lucky, a musician and every one of their releases that define you. If you’re just the right age, at just the right point in your life, it’s their sound and their lyrics that speak to you and speak for you.
For me, that musician is John Mayer.
I don’t know a better way to describe my attachment to an artist and a catalogue of songs that have influenced more than a decade of my life. If all you know of him is infamous interviews, girlfriends and radio tracks, you might not follow, and I’m sorry for that. But it’s my blog. So here we go.
In early 2012, with the release of Born & Raised pending and a concert tour planned, I snapped up tickets to Indy and Chicago shows. But something was lacking – I knew I’d regret not going to the shows, but I wasn’t as stoked about them as I’d been in years’ past. Maybe I was changing, maybe Mayer’s music was. Whatever it was, I started wondering if our fan/artist relationship was winding down.
Then tragedy struck (which is not even an overstatement) when Mayer was afflicted by the same condition that’s kept Adele and so many others from making the music we all love. The album was delayed, the tour canceled, the words “may stop singing indefinitely” uttered.
So when news broke at the beginning of the year that not only was a new album in the offing but a summer concert tour, too, I rallied my best ticket-buying tactics and picked up better-than-decent seats in Chicago, Los Angeles and even Virginia Beach. At the time, I had no idea where I’d be in six months, and I knew I could find my way to each of those spots. Fast forward to August and I’m on a plane back to Chicago to connect with my closest friend and continue a tradition that started way back in 2002. After being fairly obsessed with the likes of She & Him and The Civil Wars recently, I listened to nothing but Mayer on my flight home.
Any sense that he had ceased being my music-centric spirit animal vanished as I revisited every album from Inside Wants Out on. I lost myself in St. Patrick’s Day and Heart of Life and In Repair and every song I hadn’t heard in at least a year. I put Wildfire on replay, internalizing the beat and the words and the guitar solos and loving every measure. Once again, Mayer had managed to capture exactly what I didn’t even know I needed in a series of chords and words.
And there, 30,000 feet above the Midwest, I fell in love with John Mayer all over again.
And of course, the show exceeded every expectation. Apparently fully recovered from his vocal scare, Mayer channeled every ounce of showmanship he’s known for. He brought out songs from Paradise Valley alongside My Stupid Mouth and easily one of the best Why Georgia‘s I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard a few over the years). He killed it on Gravity, an amphitheater of 20,000 people singing along with him; he had new songs like Age of Worry as amplified as the stand-bys.
I know he’s not universally appreciated; I know that some of you reading this are rolling your eyes at my fandom. And I don’t care. What I am more certain of is what his music brings out in me, what I hear it in and what it has meant and continues to mean to me. It doesn’t matter who he’s dating; it doesn’t matter what thoughtless quote a magazine runs; it doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t smoke. Like Carly Simon or John Denver or Dave Matthews are to their biggest fans, John Mayer is to me – a welcome, defining influence.
Shameless plug: Paradise Valley is out next week and streaming free on iTunes here. Enjoy!